On the 29 February members of the PCS union in the Department for Transport (DfT) took strike action over low and unequal pay, jobs and privatisation.
The strike had a great impact:
• Picket lines were in operation across Britain;
• MPs joined the pickets in Stockton, Northampton and in London;
• At the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) the support was very strong, with the huge main office in Swansea making top billing on BBC Wales at lunchtime. Local activists believe that it was the best supported action held in Swansea for years;
• In the local DVLA office network members managed to bring about the closure of offices in Shrewsbury, Bangor, Edinburgh, Brighton and Nottingham. Support was good, with a strong turnout, at Glasgow, Manchester, Stockton, Leeds and Chester and other VROs;
• In the Driving Standards Agency it is estimated that approximately 5000 driving tests were cancelled and booking of tests was badly affected by support from members in the central call centre in Newcastle.
The union believes that the dispute was the better supported than the one day strikes called last year as part of the national action.
There was a week’s work to rule following the strike, prolonging the disruption caused by the strike and keeping the work backlogs in place.
In early March the coastguards (who are part of DfT) will take their first strike action since the service was formed over 140 years ago.
Their dispute has a different basis from that of the rest of the department. In 2005 a pay comparability study concluded that coastguards were “underpaid” by at £2,000 compared to the other emergency services. Local management agree this is true but ministers will refuse to fund the necessary pay increases.
The union has also started equal pay cases in DfT and is seeking a judicial review claiming that the DfT Secretary of State Ruth Kelly’s refusal to check whether the unequal pay in the department is gender-related and a breach of the DfT’s legal duties. PCS is campaigning amongst MPs on this last point as well.
Further industrial action, including selective action, is planned. For more information visit www.pcs.org.uk/dft